by Ben Fowler
[Pre-amble: In order to better connect our blog and our forum, once a week we'll be posting questions from actual members! We'll post answers from users, and occasionally throw in our own two cents!]
This week we're looking at Brian's questions about 7.1 versus 5.1 surround sound:
Question: Please post your opinions on 7.1 (meaning 6.1 matrixed and discrete) versus 5.1 surround setups here. How many square feet does a room have to be in size to make it worthwhile to move to a 7.1 setup? Further, wouldn't a dipole/bipole configuration in 5.1 - particularly if they are of higher quality than 4 surrounds - be just as enveloping as a 7.1 in a room of 100 - 200 square feet? Are there plans to make any significant movements towards 7.1 in encoding besides Lord of the Rings? Is it all just marketing hype to buy more speakers/wire/banana plugs/mounting brackets? - Brian
Answer: Boz, I had a 7.2 channel set-up in our old house (non-Aperion). It was a 15'x25' finished basement with the theater set-up in 15'x15' of the room. I used di-poles for the side surrounds and traditional monitors for the rears. There were few scenes where the dicrete 6th channel had any 'wow' factor - in Gladiator, when they are about to execute him and the sword comes flying directly over your head from behind, that was cool! At the time though, there were very few discrete DVD's and the execution of them was limited to minute scenes.
That being said, the enveloping factor of the rear surrounds did help in that 15' wide space. Also, the dipoles were only reflecting off the sides walls as there was no rear wall for another 10-12' behind them.
In our new house, in a smaller space - 8'x12' I had no need for 6th or 7th speaker. I think in a smaller room, a 7 channel system has the potential to overwhelm or distract with so many speakers. In a larger room, it can have benefits. - Jim
I personally recommend 7.1 if your going to have 3 or more feet behind your listening position (couch, chair, etc), and if you have a large room, bigger than 225 square feet. In this scenario it can really give you a spectacular surround effect, filling in back to front (and vice-versa) panning, even if the soundtrack is a basic Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 mix. - Ben
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